Tuesday, February 24, 2009

on God and angels.

When I was at the hospital, giving birth to my daughter, there was a lot of angel talk amongst the nurses.
“Your daughter is an angel now.”
“Little beautiful angel Lucia.”
"Now, she is an angel with her grandfather."
I tolerated it because I was reeling and numb. I have always called my daughter Beatrice an “angel” in this context, “Can you please pick up all the Bunny Grahams you just dumped onto the carpet, my angel?” My mother uses Angel interchangeably with Angie, and when I was at university and would come in with my laundry, my step father would often not look up from the television, but scream to my mother, “I smell an angel in the house.”

Still, there is something about referring to my Lucy as an angel that enrages me. I go literally from zero to Red Zone. Why? I guess it is because I want people to see her as a real baby that really died. I often think about this quote from Dr. Zhivago, “For a moment she rediscovered the purpose of her life. She was here in earth to grasp the meaning of its wild enchantment and call each thing by its right name” So, let’s do that, shall we? Let's call things by their proper name. She is not an angel. Let’s not imagine her flying around heaven playing a harp. Let’s not paint some beautiful picture of this situation. My daughter is dead. She was my baby, and now she is dead. She was six pounds, 18.5 inches. She gestated for 38 weeks. She kicked me. She flipped around. She played Mama and Lucy Poke Each Other. She had black hair, and blue eyes, and perfect lips. She didn’t die for any specific reason, but she is still dead. She wasn’t an angel. She is a baby. Sure, now she is a dead baby, but she was still a baby. My baby.

What I have gone through shakes the foundation of everything any of us want to believe in, and that we do believe in. When we are atheists, we think, "I wish I believed in God, maybe then I could make sense of this situation." When we are theists, we think "I wish I didn't believe in God because I cannot make sense of this situation." It shakes what we imagine our future to be, and how we see our past. I thought my time pregnant with Lucy was the happiest time of my life, and now, it seems like the most fucking ignorant.

When someone told me after losing Lucia that God had a plan for my baby, I just thought, "What kind of plan could God possibly have for my baby? Is he creating some kind of baby army? Is her looking for beautiful baby girls to pose for Hallmark cards?" And more than once, I thought, "If for some reason, this is God’s plan, then God is an asshole." These days, my internal dialogues are not too deep. I have my degree in Religion. It used to be my raison d'etre to discuss what people think God's plans are, and yet, I just cannot get behind that line of thought. Even if I believed in a God like that, I just simply cannot believe that He would take babies for some higher purpose. I do appreciate it must be comforting to someone. It just is not comforting to me.

I think it is more comforting for me to think the world is a random, chaotic place that is frequently cruel, though after Lucia died, I found that incredibly frightening. When I came home from the hospital, I had a conversation with Sam in which I said, “This is the worst thing that will ever happen to us.” And he looked at me pityingly and said, “Just because our daughter has died doesn’t mean we are immune from ever suffering again.” It made me shudder. I wanted to wrap everyone I loved in bubble wrap, and keep them on a low shelf.


  1. When I came to that realization, that the world is random, chaotic and sometimes tragic, I was terrified. I realized that until then I thought that random, shitty things happened to other people and what terrified me was knowing that I was no longer immune.

  2. wow. what an incredibly powerful realization...i guess i probably thought the same thing. thank you, monique.

  3. I've been an atheist since I was 16 and my son's death only confirms my lack of belief in god so I can sympathize with your frustration with angel talk. I understand that for some individuals it's helpful and yet it makes no sense to me. I feel the same way when people say "everything happens for a reason." They don't mean there was a medical, factual reason why. They mean some higher good or plan was served by my son's death. I want to scream, "what possible reason could it be? in what fucking world is my life better without my son?"

    Some people say that God's existence is proven by the incredible complexity of the world, that the diversity of flora and fauna could not possibly have evolved naturally. I counter that the fact some good, loving families lose their babies while many crackheads and abusers have healthy children is proof that the world is a chaotic place, unsupervised by an omnicient being.

  4. Nothing enrages me more than when people say, 'God just wanted him for himself' or 'we can't question God's plans for him'. I remain convinced that the best plan for Ezra was to be born alive.

    Chaos is a powerful force in the universe.

  5. As a person who does believe in God, I am still upset that people tell me what God's plan was.

    I know they say it to comfort me but really what do they know... what does anybody know?

  6. YES- I agree with all of this. The realization that nothing is promised and nothing is certain was lurking out there all along- but now we know. And damn, I wish we didn't.

  7. Hi Angie -- I read your letter in the paper and then spaced on the chat -- damn it! Will try and find it online. I'm also a Philly Girl.

    Like above, I think knowing the random-ness of life and that I could be, literally, the one (read "1:1x10n") freaks the crap out of me. I look at my daughter Bella like she's a ticking time bomb that could expire at any moment. I no longer wish or want anything because I realize how ephemeral and stupid it is to do just that. I like to say I've lost my little-f faith. And now that I walk in this corner of the universe, I've met people who've gone through worse -- and who've gone through this more than once. Lightning can strike twice.

    And also like above, as an atheist, losing my baby really just kind of validated my mindset. I really feel for women who struggle with the parameters of their religion after the death of a child because it's hard enough to just grieve in my mind.

    I'm so sorry for your loss.

  8. a strange statue appeared at my doorstep today via the ups deliveryman. no card accompanied it but it's from a catholic statuary place so i think i know who sent it. anyway, it's a baby lying on its side wrapped in huge angel wings. it's very odd and more than a little creepy. probably a nice thought by someone but what the heck am i supposed to do with it???

  9. You write beautifully. I have just found your blog, and I have started at the beginning.

    The way you speak about losing Lucy - it takes me back to when I lost my Samuel. So many things you write - it is like you have read my mind and wrote it for me.

    Grief. It takes my breath away sometimes. It has been two years and I miss my son more now than ever.

    And I, like you, want to just wrap up everyone I love and protect them.

  10. I feel much the same. You put it into words so much better than I could.


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